87 Facts About Richard Wagner


Unlike most opera composers, Richard Wagner wrote both the libretto and the music for each of his stage works.

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Richard Wagner described this vision in a series of essays published between 1849 and 1852.

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Richard Wagner realised these ideas most fully in the first half of the four-opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen.

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Richard Wagner had his own opera house built, the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, which embodied many novel design features.

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Until his final years, Richard Wagner's life was characterised by political exile, turbulent love affairs, poverty and repeated flight from his creditors.

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Richard Wagner was born to an ethnic German family in Leipzig, who lived at No 3, the Bruhl in the Jewish quarter on 22 May 1813.

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Richard Wagner was the ninth child of Carl Friedrich Wagner, who was a clerk in the Leipzig police service, and his wife, Johanna Rosine, the daughter of a baker.

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In late 1820, Richard Wagner was enrolled at Pastor Wetzel's school at Possendorf, near Dresden, where he received some piano instruction from his Latin teacher.

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Richard Wagner struggled to play a proper scale at the keyboard and preferred playing theatre overtures by ear.

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Richard Wagner was determined to set it to music and persuaded his family to allow him music lessons.

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Richard Wagner was greatly impressed by a performance of Mozart's Requiem.

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In Mein Leben, Richard Wagner wrote, "When I look back across my entire life I find no event to place beside this in the impression it produced on me, " and claimed that the "profoundly human and ecstatic performance of this incomparable artist" kindled in him an "almost demonic fire.

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In 1831, Richard Wagner enrolled at the Leipzig University, where he became a member of the Saxon student fraternity.

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Richard Wagner took composition lessons with the Thomaskantor Theodor Weinlig.

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Richard Wagner arranged for his pupil's Piano Sonata in B-flat major to be published as Wagner's Op.

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Richard Wagner then began to work on an opera, Die Hochzeit, which he never completed.

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Richard Wagner had fallen for one of the leading ladies at Magdeburg, the actress Christine Wilhelmine "Minna" Planer and after the disaster of Das Liebesverbot he followed her to Konigsberg, where she helped him to get an engagement at the theatre.

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In June 1837, Richard Wagner moved to Riga, where he became music director of the local opera; having in this capacity engaged Minna's sister Amalie ( a singer) for the theatre, he presently resumed relations with Minna during 1838.

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Richard Wagner made a scant living by writing articles and short novelettes such as A pilgrimage to Beethoven, which sketched his growing concept of "music drama", and An end in Paris, where he depicts his own miseries as a German musician in the French metropolis.

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Richard Wagner provided arrangements of operas by other composers, largely on behalf of the Schlesinger publishing house.

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Richard Wagner lived in Dresden for the next six years, eventually being appointed the Royal Saxon Court Conductor.

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Richard Wagner was influenced by the ideas of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and Ludwig Feuerbach.

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Richard Wagner had to flee, first visiting Paris and then settling in Zurich where he at first took refuge with a friend, Alexander Muller.

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Richard Wagner was to spend the next twelve years in exile from Germany.

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Richard Wagner had completed Lohengrin, the last of his middle-period operas, before the Dresden uprising, and now wrote desperately to his friend Franz Liszt to have it staged in his absence.

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Nevertheless, Richard Wagner was in grim personal straits, isolated from the German musical world and without any regular income.

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Richard Wagner even plotted an elopement with her in 1850, which her husband prevented.

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Richard Wagner fell victim to ill-health, according to Ernest Newman "largely a matter of overwrought nerves", which made it difficult for him to continue writing.

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Richard Wagner's primary published output during his first years in Zurich was a set of essays.

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In "Opera and Drama", Richard Wagner described the aesthetics of drama that he was using to create the Ring operas.

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Richard Wagner initially wrote the libretto for a single opera, Siegfrieds Tod, in 1848.

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Richard Wagner completed the text of the cycle by writing the libretti for Die Walkure and Das Rheingold (The Rhine Gold) and revising the other libretti to agree with his new concept, completing them in 1852.

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Partly in an attempt to explain his change of views, Richard Wagner published in 1851 the autobiographical "A Communication to My Friends".

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Richard Wagner began composing the music for Das Rheingold between November 1853 and September 1854, following it immediately with Die Walkure.

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Richard Wagner began work on the third Ring opera, which he now called simply Siegfried, probably in September 1856, but by June 1857 he had completed only the first two acts.

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Richard Wagner decided to put the work aside to concentrate on a new idea: Tristan und Isolde, based on the Arthurian love story Tristan and Iseult.

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One source of inspiration for Tristan und Isolde was the philosophy of Arthur Schopenhauer, notably his The World as Will and Representation, to which Richard Wagner had been introduced in 1854 by his poet friend Georg Herwegh.

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Richard Wagner later called this the most important event of his life.

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Richard Wagner remained an adherent of Schopenhauer for the rest of his life.

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Richard Wagner scholars have argued that Schopenhauer's influence caused Richard Wagner to assign a more commanding role to music in his later operas, including the latter half of the Ring cycle, which he had yet to compose.

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Richard Wagner met the Wesendoncks, who were both great admirers of his music, in Zurich in 1852.

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In November 1859, Richard Wagner moved to Paris to oversee production of a new revision of Tannhauser, staged thanks to the efforts of Princess Pauline von Metternich, whose husband was the Austrian ambassador in Paris.

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Richard Wagner had sought a reconciliation with Minna during this Paris visit, and although she joined him there, the reunion was not successful and they again parted from each other when Wagner left.

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Richard Wagner wrote a first draft of the libretto in 1845, and he had resolved to develop it during a visit he had made to Venice with the Wesendoncks in 1860, where he was inspired by Titian's painting The Assumption of the Virgin.

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Richard Wagner's fortunes took a dramatic upturn in 1864, when King Ludwig II succeeded to the throne of Bavaria at the age of 18.

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Richard Wagner began to dictate his autobiography, Mein Leben, at the King's request.

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Richard Wagner noted that his rescue by Ludwig coincided with news of the death of his earlier mentor Giacomo Meyerbeer, and regretted that "this operatic master, who had done me so much harm, should not have lived to see this day.

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Cosima was 24 years younger than Richard Wagner and was herself illegitimate, the daughter of the Countess Marie d'Agoult, who had left her husband for Franz Liszt.

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The indiscreet affair scandalised Munich, and Richard Wagner fell into disfavour with many leading members of the court, who were suspicious of his influence on the King.

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Richard Wagner apparently toyed with the idea of abdicating to follow his hero into exile, but Wagner quickly dissuaded him.

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At Ludwig's insistence, "special previews" of the first two works of the Ring, Das Rheingold and Die Walkure, were performed at Munich in 1869 and 1870, but Richard Wagner retained his dream, first expressed in "A Communication to My Friends", to present the first complete cycle at a special festival with a new, dedicated, opera house.

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Richard Wagner consented only after she had two more children with Wagner; another daughter, named Eva, after the heroine of Meistersinger, and a son Siegfried, named for the hero of the Ring.

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On Christmas Day of that year, Richard Wagner arranged a surprise performance of the Siegfried Idyll for Cosima's birthday.

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Richard Wagner, settled into his new-found domesticity, turned his energies towards completing the Ring cycle.

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Richard Wagner had not abandoned polemics: he republished his 1850 pamphlet "Judaism in Music", originally issued under a pseudonym, under his own name in 1869.

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Richard Wagner extended the introduction, and wrote a lengthy additional final section.

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In 1871, Richard Wagner decided to move to Bayreuth, which was to be the location of his new opera house.

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Richard Wagner initially announced the first Bayreuth Festival, at which for the first time the Ring cycle would be presented complete, for 1873, but since Ludwig had declined to finance the project, the start of building was delayed and the proposed date for the festival was deferred.

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Design of the Festspielhaus, Richard Wagner appropriated some of the ideas of his former colleague, Gottfried Semper, which he had previously solicited for a proposed new opera house at Munich.

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Richard Wagner was responsible for several theatrical innovations at Bayreuth; these include darkening the auditorium during performances, and placing the orchestra in a pit out of view of the audience.

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From 1876 to 1878 Richard Wagner embarked on the last of his documented emotional liaisons, this time with Judith Gautier, whom he had met at the 1876 Festival.

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Richard Wagner was much troubled by problems of financing Parsifal, and by the prospect of the work being performed by other theatres than Bayreuth.

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Richard Wagner was assisted by the liberality of King Ludwig, but was still forced by his personal financial situation in 1877 to sell the rights of several of his unpublished works to the publisher Schott.

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Richard Wagner wrote several articles in his later years, often on political topics, and often reactionary in tone, repudiating some of his earlier, more liberal, views.

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Richard Wagner completed Parsifal in January 1882, and a second Bayreuth Festival was held for the new opera, which premiered on 26 May Richard Wagner was by this time extremely ill, having suffered a series of increasingly severe angina attacks.

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Richard Wagner died of a heart attack at the age of 69 on 13 February 1883 at Ca' Vendramin Calergi, a 16th-century palazzo on the Grand Canal.

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Unlike most opera composers, who generally left the task of writing the libretto to others, Richard Wagner wrote his own libretti, which he referred to as "poems".

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Richard Wagner developed a compositional style in which the importance of the orchestra is equal to that of the singers.

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These operas are still, despite Richard Wagner's reservations, referred to by many writers as "music dramas".

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Later in life, Richard Wagner said that he did not consider these works to be part of his oeuvre; and they have been performed only rarely in the last hundred years, although the overture to Rienzi is an occasional concert-hall piece.

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Richard Wagner specifically developed the libretti for these operas according to his interpretation of Stabreim, highly alliterative rhyming verse-pairs used in old Germanic poetry.

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Richard Wagner felt that his musico-dramatical theories were most perfectly realised in this work with its use of "the art of transition" between dramatic elements and the balance achieved between vocal and orchestral lines.

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When Richard Wagner returned to writing the music for the last act of Siegfried and for Gotterdammerung, as the final part of the Ring, his style had changed once more to something more recognisable as "operatic" than the aural world of Rheingold and Walkure, though it was still thoroughly stamped with his own originality as a composer and suffused with leitmotifs.

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Richard Wagner took 26 years from writing the first draft of a libretto in 1848 until he completed Gotterdammerung in 1874.

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For most of these, Richard Wagner wrote or rewrote short passages to ensure musical coherence.

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Richard Wagner was an extremely prolific writer, authoring many books, poems, and articles, as well as voluminous correspondence.

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Richard Wagner's writings covered a wide range of topics, including autobiography, politics, philosophy, and detailed analyses of his own operas.

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Richard Wagner planned for a collected edition of his publications as early as 1865; he believed that such an edition would help the world understand his intellectual development and artistic aims.

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Complete edition of Richard Wagner's correspondence, estimated to amount to between 10, 000 and 12, 000 items, is under way under the supervision of the University of Wurzburg.

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Richard Wagner made a major contribution to the principles and practice of conducting.

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Richard Wagner exemplified this approach in his own conducting, which was significantly more flexible than the disciplined approach of Felix Mendelssohn; in his view this justified practices that would today be frowned upon, such as the rewriting of scores.

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Nietzsche broke with Richard Wagner following the first Bayreuth Festival, believing that Richard Wagner's final phase represented a pandering to Christian pieties and a surrender to the new German Reich.

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Richard Wagner is discussed in some of the works of James Joyce, as well as W E B Du Bois, who featured Lohengrin in The Souls of Black Folk.

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Many of Richard Wagner's concepts, including his speculation about dreams, predated their investigation by Sigmund Freud.

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Richard Wagner's followers have formed many societies dedicated to Richard Wagner's life and work.

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Richard Wagner's ideas are amenable to socialist interpretations; many of his ideas on art were being formulated at the time of his revolutionary inclinations in the 1840s.

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The Nazis used those parts of Richard Wagner's thought that were useful for propaganda and ignored or suppressed the rest.

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